06 December 2013

Swimmers Ear – the low down

Swimmers ear is where the tube between the outer ear and eardrum (external ear canal) becomes inflamed due to water damage. The medical term is otitis externa.

Swimmers ear often occurs after repeated exposure to water.  Just one drop of water can cause immense discomfort  and irritation. Water in the ear contributes to the weakening the ears natural wax defence.  The result?  Painful, swollen ears that hurt like mad and put a dampener on holiday fun.
Symptoms include:

• ear pain, which can range from moderate to   severe
• a discharge of liquid or pus from the ear
• some degree of temporary hearing loss

Usually only one ear is affected.

The good news, with treatment, these symptoms should clear up within two-to-three days.
(We don’t want to scare you but, in some cases the symptoms can persist for several months, which is known as chronic otitis externa. Rest assured, the long-term symptoms tend to be much milder.)

What causes Swimmers Ear?

Repeated exposure to water can clear earwax out of the external ear canal, making it very itchy. If you try to scratch inside your ear, the sensitive skin of the canal can break down, allowing an infection to take place.  Water in the ear also creates a moist environment, which encourages bacteria to grow.

Other causes include:

• a spot developing inside the ear
• a fungal infection
• something directly irritating the ear canal, such as a hearing aid or an ear plug

What are my chances of getting it?

Quite high actually. Around 1 in 10 will be affected at some point and more over the summer months.


SwimSeal is the only product available that acts as a natural barrier to water.  Two or three drops every couple of hours as necessary is all it takes to prevent Swimmers ear.  It’s a must have addition for the summer holidays.  You don’t go in the sun without sunscreen, we recommend you don’t go in the water without SwimSeal. or


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Hello? »

SEE: Interesting facts about hearing loss Earworms: Let it go Is it bad to sleep with earplugs all the time?

SEE: Do women hear better than men?

The reason why men often appear not to be listening could be because they actually can't hear you.

Confident smile? »

Acidic drinks can harm your kids' smiles The facts on bleaching your teeth Am I taking good care of my teeth?

Why are my teeth stained?

We know the rules – brush your teeth twice a day and floss to keep them healthy. But, have you ever wondered what causes those stains that sometimes appear?